Sunday, November 21, 2010



I am participating in the National Novel Writing Month this November. During NaNoWriMo people from around the world try to write a fifty-thousand word novel in just thirty days. That comes out to one thousand, six hundred, sixty-seven words per day throughout November. I am about a day ahead as I have thirty-six thousand, eight hundred, forty-six words written so far and we need to have written thirty-five thousand by the end of the day.

I like NaNoWriMo because it gives me a chance to use my creativity in ways I don’t usually get to. It also challenges me to accomplish something creative, not just puts around with it. I am writing a science fiction novel this year, set in the same universe as the short story I started on this blog but never finished last year, and featuring many of the same characters as the NaNoWriMo book I wrote last year. I am hoping this year’s book will come out better, as last years book still needs a LOT of editing before I would even consider it to be a decent first draft.

How does Pluralism fit into my writing a Science Fiction novel? As a Christian on of the decisions I had to make when writing these books was how God was going to fit into them. Christian writers tend to go one several directions with this question. I am going to hi-light three.

One: The main characters are or become Christian in the book. This is usually chosen by Christian writers writing “Christian” science fiction set in an earth centric science fiction universe. God may or may not be actively involved in their lives other than their belief system sometimes guiding their actions.

Two: Leave God out entirely, either because they are Christians but are not trying to write an explicitly Christian book or because they don’t want to assume how god would act in any particular circumstance.

Three: Have God or a God figure be a defined character in the book, much like C.S. Lewis did in his fantasy Narnia books. In this case God’s actions are as central as those of the other characters and the God character is most certainly NOT passive like it sometimes is with the first option.

I have chosen to use a mixture of these and am still trying to solidify my decision.

My universe is NOT earth centric and in fact it is an entirely separate universe from our own. That being the case I cannot just have my characters be Christians and therefore settle the religious option.

I don’t like the second for several reasons, mostly because I think everything we do as Christians should be colored and guided by our relationship with God.

I am not writing a Fantasy book and most certainly not an allegory so having God be a character in the Aslan from Narnia fashion is just not an option.

What I want to do to the best of my ability is have God in my Universe be essentially the same God as we have here in ours. I have my characters refer to God primarily as either the Creator, the One Who Is, or when using a pronoun as they or them referring in a non-explicit way to a Trinitarian view.

As a side note I find it disturbing how often God is essentially passive in “Christian” books. The main characters may be Christians and believe in God and pray, but it is almost never made clear that God answered their prayers in a solid way. I know this can be hard to do well without being weird or preachy, but when your main character is running for their life from a bad guy and are they are supposed to be a Christian the way they get out of the problem should not be exactly the same way a character who isn’t a Christian would in a non-Christian book, based on the character’s own ingenuity, strength, cunning, or luck. At the very least the author should make it clear that God led the character to the clever answer or gave them the strength or cunning to fight back, or the lucky happenstance should be attributed to God’s actions. Even CSI: NY had an episode the other day where Mac Taylor essentially said that his personal opinion was that science had nothing to do with a certain victim’s survival, implying instead that it was the love of his mother that had somehow mysteriously kept him alive.

If a secular TV show can reference a belief in the supernatural why are so many Christian authors who are supposedly writing Christian fiction so reluctant to do so? Could it be that this is a reflection of their view of God? That God is essentially passive at this point in time, and practically speaking Christianity is only a religion that is good for anything as a moral compass and a ticket to heaven after we die. I don’t want to sound harsh but I am afraid that is exactly how many Christians view their faith and their God.

I don’t want to have the kind of faith that doesn’t really make a difference in my life; in a God I don’t really believe is active in my life. That just seems sad and pointless to me. I don’t always live this way, but I want my relationship with God to be vital and vibrant. I want it to be a central spring of life, inspiration, energy, and purpose that drives and guides every other facet of my life. I am not always sure how to get there but that is the goal.

Coming back to the main topic, my universe is made up of many different worlds, each and every one of them created by God. I have come over time to accept the probability that there is a lot of truth to the theory of evolution, and would probably say I believe in some form of theistic evolution. I think the odds are too crazy for this world and all life on it to have evolved purely by chance, but I no longer believe in a literal seven day creation of the world some six thousand or so years ago. That being said, most of the worlds in my story universe have “evolved” at the more or less the same rate, from around the same beginning date and most of them attained “hyperspace” travel within a few hundred years of each other. All the “human” species in my story are genetically and otherwise compatible, and I have not chosen to include any non “humanoid” sentient species at this point. These choices were not just made to simplify the writing, they were very deliberate references to the idea that God would probably choose a consistent “design” for humans across all the worlds God created in my story.

I realize that some great writers like C. S. Lewis chose otherwise in their Science Fiction writing, having God create completely “other” characters from us that were children of God, but I have not chosen to do so.

Having a vast science fiction universe with multiple worlds, that is also supposed to have our God as its God brings up a very interesting question. What do we do with Jesus? This is where the Pluralism question comes into play. As a Christian I believe Jesus is unique. I believe he is the one and only son of God, and it is only through him that anyone is saved. (Whatever being “saved” really means, but that is a huge question for another blog post.) Having said that I also need to say I recognize how arrogant it can sound to someone who isn’t a Christian. However, my response would be that most of them probably believe some version of the same thing about their religion.

Traditionally, believing in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and believing that it is only through him that anyone can be save has been equated with believing that it is necessary for anyone who wants to be saved to hold these same beliefs. I no longer fully believe that.

My, that was a complicated paragraph. Perhaps an example would help here.

To say that it is only because of gravity that we are kept on this planet and do not go flying off into space is NOT the same thing as saying that it is only by believing in gravity that we are kept on this planet and kept from flying off into space. You can believe whatever you want about what keeps us here on earth, that doesn’t change the facts, and gravity isn’t going to throw you out just because you don’t believe in her.

Now admittedly God isn’t an inanimate force, but too often I think we think of and treat God that way The traditional Christian formula has people being “saved” by “believing that Jesus is Lord and confessing that God raised him from the dead,” and there is certainly biblical evidence for this formula and I believe it is true as far as it goes. I believe that if you “believe and confess” you will be saved, biblically I can’t not believe this even with the odd biblical evidence that this isn’t always so. (IE the verses about judgment where Jesus talks about God saying “Depart from me, I never knew you.”) What I don’t believe is that “believing and confessing” in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection is necessarily the ONLY way a person can be saved.

Let me be completely clear, I don’t believe that there is any other way to be save outside of Jesus Christ. He is the door and no one enters except through him. I just don’t see why it is absolutely necessary for a person to KNOW this side of death that they are being saved through Jesus Christ. The obvious example is a people group in South America or somewhere else who has never heard about Jesus. Are they all doomed and cannot be saved because of this? I don’t think so. I believe a person is saved by a relationship with God, and that because God is Trinitarian by nature this relationship will also be with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but the person doesn’t necessarily HAVE to KNOW that in order for this relationship to save them.

I would just extend this principle farther than many would, to the Muslim who has never heard anything good about Jesus or his followers, and even to the American who has been very hurt by the Church and wants nothing to do with Jesus if his followers act that way.

So if this belief makes me a Pluralist than I guess I am one.

As for how to deal with Jesus in my Science Fiction Universe, I still haven’t figured that question out, except to say that people in that Universe, just like people in ours, will be saved by a relationship with a God I believe to be Trinitarian in nature.